Did Anyone Really Like High School?

What do you feel when you think about high school? Nostalgia? Happiness? Sheer terror? Numbness? Some remember it longingly, the glory days of their youth, the end of everything that was great in their lives – and for those people I feel sad. Some would rather not remember it at all, the isolation, insults, loneliness and awkward moments too painful to recall – and for those people, I feel sad too. I have always told my children (and anyone else who was listening) “you don’t want to peak in high school.” I think most of those who did just that would agree.

For me high school was…difficult. Right before beginning my sophomore year of high school, my family moved from Long Island to Sherman Oaks, California. Talk about culture shock – I might as well have landed in a foreign country. I went from the familiar confines of the mostly upper-middle-class, mostly Jewish community where I had lived all of my life toVan Nuys High School, which at the time was smack dab in the middle of the barrio. I had never met a Mexican person before, much less a low rider. I had no idea what the graffiti on the bathroom walls meant. I honestly thought the entire world was Jewish. I learned quickly that it isn’t (duh).

sophomore, van nuys high, high school, 1977, school picture, california

That's me, with the long dark hair, second from left.


Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t afraid of the new and different – just kind of overwhelmed. There were plenty of people who were (kind of) like me. I was just so utterly lost, walking through the quad (what the heck was a quad???), the open air multiple building campus completely different from the large, multi-story brick buildings where I had gone to school before. I knew absolutely no one – and was sure I would never be happy again.

Great Neck North, junior high, middle school, 1970's, New York, Long Island, high school, blog, giveaways , free

Great Neck North Middle School - when I went there it was a junior high school.


I had a big chip on my shoulder while I was in high school, that’s for sure. I was pissed off. Really, really pissed off – and I spent the next three years showing everyone just how pissed off I was. I didn’t belong here – I belonged back on Long Island, with my life-long friends and giant leafy trees, cold winters and hot, muggy summers. I was SO not a California girl. After 35 years, I’m still not.

For example, many girls at my new school in California wore these:

dittos, pants, san fernando valley, high school, fashion, southern california, 1970s, valley girl

Dittos. The pants of the Southern California girl. Not so much for me.


While I had always worn these:

jeans, patched jeans, 1970s jeans, fashion, 1970s fashion

Old Levis (or Lee) jeans - the more patches the better

Also, the girls in California wore these:

candies 1970s shoes, candies, 70s california, shoes, high heels, 1970s

Candies shoes. The epitome of 1970s California girl footwear.


While back on Long Island, girls preferred these:

1970s frye boots, 1970s shoes, California fashion, 1970s fashion, high school

Frye boots - the ultimate 1970s shoe in certain Long Island towns


I know these things may seem fairly unimportant now, but back then it was as if my whole identity had to be redefined. So that’s what I did, but not in such a good way. I made some friends – really good friends, in fact – but I never felt like I was part of my school, part of my community. I had no history with any of these people, and for me, that was a really big problem. I felt like I was the proverbial fish out of water. I rebelled in all the ways teenagers rebel. I won’t go into details – you know what I mean.

You know the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High“? That movie was filmed at my high school, and it might as well have been a documentary. I knew all of those characters – they were perfect composites of the people around me.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Van Nuys High, Van Nuys, high school, 1970s, southern california

It says Ridgemont, but it's really Van Nuys.

During my years in high school, there was a constant sense that I was waiting for something to change. Now at midlife, my children both having made it through the monumental experience of high school, I understand that this feeling is true for so many people at that time in their lives. But to me, back then, it seemed like I was the only one like me in the whole place – and it wasn’t easy.


I wouldn’t go back to high school for anything. Unless I could do it all completely differently.

No, not even then.


Sharon Greenthal emptyhousefullmind.com


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